CBS Pulls Rihanna From ‘Thursday Night Football’ Amid Ray Rice Scandal

September 11, 2014 by  
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The chairman of CBS Sports says the network is revising its “Thursday Night Football” broadcast because of controversy that arose connected with the Ray Rice video.

Sean McManus said the changes include eliminating a segment with the Rihanna song, “Run This Town.” Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens this week after a video showing him knocking his future wife unconscious was aired on TMZ and elsewhere. The network wanted to give the game coverage a more “subdued” tone and journalistic approach, McManus said.

Rihanna’s own history of violence involving Chris Brown was one of several factors involved in cutting the song element but not the overriding factor, McManus said.

CBS begins its prime-time Thursday broadcasts with the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Baltimore Ravens.

Obama’s ISIS, Al Qaeda Comparison ‘Wildly Off-Base,’ Richard Engel Says

September 10, 2014 by  
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President Barack Obama outlined his strategy to take down the Islamic State in an address to the nation on Wednesday, comparing his plan to employ airstrikes to take down terrorists while supporting partners on the ground to past efforts to take out terrorists in Yemen and Somalia.

But NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel accused the president of taking liberties with his analogy.

“I think it is wildly off-base, I think it’s an oversimplification of the problem,” Engel said, reporting from Erbil, Iraq.

Engel explained that the partnered government in Yemen relies on the United States when members of al Qaeda are hiding in parts of the desert that its forces can’t reach, while terrorist groups in Somalia are “generally ignored” unless U.S. special operations forces see an opportunity to strike.

“That’s not at all the situation that we are seeing in Iraq and Syria,” Engel said, noting that the Islamic State consists of tens of thousands of individuals operating in an area the size of Maryland, where 8 million people live.

“It’s much more akin to regime change than it is to waiting back, picking targets with allied forces, they are not comparable at all,” Engel said. “He’s talking about having the Iraqi army reconstituted and using that Iraqi army to secure this country. The problem is the Iraqi army over the last several months has collapsed, it has been reconstituted already by many Iranian advisers and sometimes regular Iranian ground forces that have been witnessed on many occasions, and these Sunni villages that are now with ISIS are afraid of the Iraqi army.”

“We talk about a partner on the ground that we are going to link up with to rid Iraq of ISIS,” he said. “Well, that partner on the ground in many cases is a reason that people support ISIS in this country.”

Watch the comments above.

Tim Cook Says Steve Jobs ‘Would Be Incredibly Proud’ Of The Apple Watch

September 9, 2014 by  
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Work on the newly unveiled Apple Watch didn’t start until after the 2011 death of Steve Jobs, but CEO Tim Cook says the iconic co-founder’s DNA is all over the new product.

“To me it’s not as a big deal whether he personally saw something or didn’t,” Cook told ABC’s David Muir. “It’s that his thinking and his taste and his incredible perfectionist kind of view — his view that you should always innovate. All of those things are alive and well in the company, and I think they always will be. I think his DNA will always be the foundation of Apple.”

See more in the clip above.

Muir also asked Cook about security in the wake of the breach in which hackers were able to access celebrity iCloud accounts and steal private photos, including nude images.

“You basically carry your life around on your wrist — your payment information, your heart rate, your pulse — and a lot of people at home are going to wonder: How safe is it?” Muir asked.

“It’s incredibly safe,” Cook said. “I think we are establishing a new bar.”

“When you see celebrities get their photos hacked, people think, ‘Well, these are famous people. And if they’re not protected, what about us?’” Muir asked.

“I feel incredibly certain that it’s very secure, the most secure thing out there,” Cook said.

See more in the clip below.


Gary Giordano Speaks Out About The Disappearance Of His Travel Companion Robyn Gardner (VIDEO)

September 9, 2014 by  
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Robyn Gardner and Gary Giordano, friends who met online, were snorkeling on a deserted beach in Aruba when Robyn went missing. Gary, who had taken out a $1.5 million travel policy on Robyn days prior and was considered by some the prime suspect, was detained in an Aruban prison for four months. Ultimately, he was released and never charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

In the season premiere of Dr. Phil, Gary answers the questions that have gripped the country for years. Watch a preview above and check here for local listings.

An all-new season of Dr. Phil premieres on Tuesday, September 9.

Like Dr. Phil | Follow Dr. Phil | Be on the Show

CNN’s Brian Stelter Says He Fears Media Provoking ISIS War Fever

September 8, 2014 by  
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CNN’s Brian Stelter said on Sunday that he is worried about whether or not the media is stoking a war panic over the Islamic State militant group.

The press reaction to the growing power of ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been dominated by hawkish voices, and Stelter wondered whether media figures are “letting their fears get the best of them, or their ideological agendas.” He said he was “very concerned about the press provoking panic about ISIS, but I’m keeping an open mind.”

Later, speaking with The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel, Stelter said he “wonder[ed] about whether the media is pushing the president towards further escalation.”

Chuck Todd Makes His Debut As ‘Meet The Press’ Host

September 7, 2014 by  
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So, how did it go?

Chuck Todd’s version of “Meet The Press” was not radically different than David Gregory’s, but the show was certainly livelier, less stuffy. It was like a living room that has been subtly tweaked—same basic concept, but isn’t that a new lamp over there? The biggest changes were not in content, but in tone.

For instance, nobody could say that many of Todd’s panel guests, like Joe Scarborough and Andrea Mitchell, aren’t familiar Washington faces, but “MTP” proved that it can welcome a pundit with—gasp!—tattoos and not fall apart. And there were other small tweaks; Todd threaded his big interview with President Obama throughout the show instead of front-loading it at the beginning, turning to the panel after each portion was over. He surely hoped that this would keep the audience tuned in until the end to see all of Obama’s comments.

But some things stayed the same. There was a segment on how bad the partisan gridlock in Washington is, and how mayors are doing a better job—certainly a Sunday-show mainstay. And the show’s overall focus on the Beltway, and on the “game” of politics, remained firmly in place.

Todd himself was chattier and funnier than Gregory ever managed to be; more importantly, he eschewed Gregory’s tendency towards pomposity. He was engaged (and nicely tough in some places) with President Obama (“What do you tell the person that’s going to get deported before the election that this decision was essentially made in your hopes of saving a Democratic Senate?” he asked Obama about his decision to delay executive action on immigration) and he didn’t seem too cowed by the task before him.

His real test will be in the weeks and months ahead. Todd has vowed to cut down on the Beltway bloviators and said he won’t book politicians unless they actually have a stake in the issue at hand. More importantly for NBC, he has to pull “Meet The Press” out of its ratings sinkhole. NBC will be keeping his fingers crossed that Todd can do both.

For Steve Sotloff: My Personal Tribute to My Friend and Collaborator

September 6, 2014 by  
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Steven Sotloff and I grew up miles apart in Miami and immigrated to Israel in the same year, but our first encounter took place in a smoky bar in Beirut, while on assignment covering the 2005 Cedar Revolution in Lebanon. We both loved the Middle East and the Arabic language and had an intense desire to reveal to the world the injustices that common citizens on the ground were facing as a result of radical Islamic terror.

It was a tumultuous time in the region and Lebanon was flooded with a slew of demonstrations triggered by the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and honestly there was no other place we would rather have been.

I’ll never forget his smile and the mischievous twinkle in his eye. We shared a bottle of single malt whiskey and a Cuban cigar and joked (even reveled) about how two American Israeli Jewish journalists were inconspicuously camping out in a remote watering hole, in Lebanon of all places, and how dangerous and even illegal it was. He shared his war stories from covering the uprisings in Egypt, where he was briefly arrested, to his adventures in Syria, where he realized that, “I have to believe there is good somewhere in this world of darkness that we live in.” He shared with me that it was never about breaking the big story or getting to hard-to-reach officials. “I learned Arabic, so that I could speak with the common people,” he said. “I want nothing more than to share the stories of the untold to the people of the West.”

And so he did, with articles in TIME, The Jerusalem Report and Foreign Policy magazines: “Latakia’s Lament”, “Syrian Purgatory” and other fitting bylines.

As we spoke further, we realized that we had much more in common than we could ever imagine. We both studied journalism, were affiliated with the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, loved Dave Mathews Band and Pink Floyd, but more importantly, we figured out what our respective callings were earlier than most and decided to pursue them with vigor. All we wanted to do was write stories and travel to places others wouldn’t dream of, to lend a voice to those who had none, and to serve as their lifeline to the world.

As we all know, Steve lost his lifeline when he was beheaded by ISIS terrorists in a video released Tuesday, after being held captive in Syria for a year.

Steve’s 2013 August capture reads like one of his nail-biting articles, with only bits and pieces recently being revealed to the world. Following his kidnapping, a small group of his friends and associates raced to systematically remove any reference online to his Israeli and Jewish roots. The U.S. and Israeli media agreed to cooperate in concealing this information, in order not to further jeopardize his life.

Sources in this inner circle have hinted that much more of Steve’s story is yet to come.

Yet, today came some relief for those that knew and loved him. At a memorial service in Miami, we remembered Steve not for how he met his death but how he conquered life. He would have been so proud. There were seven homeland security units, the world media, two governors, one mayor and a senator.

Who would have thought, Steve, that after all the stories you chased in your career that you would end up being the world story of the moment, and even more so that you managed to share your voice even in death?

The most poignant moment in the service was when Steve’s aunt read a letter Steve had written in May, smuggled out of captivity by a former cell mate before his death.

“Please know I’m OK. Live your life to the fullest and fight to be happy. Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize you only have one.” He went on to write, “I hope to see you soon. Stay positive and patient. If we are not together again, perhaps God will reunite us in Heaven.”

A sheet printed with lyrics from the song “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd was handed out to guests. “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year … wish you were here,” reads part of the song. Sotloff’s sister, Lauren, chose the song and played it for the congregation to hear. Poignant doesn’t begin to describe the moment.

The rabbi reminded everyone that life is how we spend that dash between our birth year and our death date.

Steve, your dash may have been shorter than we had hoped, but to me it was an Olympic sprint. You were committed to the truth. You chose to venture to the most dangerous places on the planet because sharing the story was worth the risk of your own mortality. You unmasked the evils of our world today and you stared at it straight in the face. And you truly loved doing it.

Today, I say goodbye to you, my old friend, and I am so amazed how you have lived on so powerfully in death.

We will always have Beirut. Rest peacefully, and know I will continue to lend a voice to those without one. For you.

Here’s The Steven Sotloff You Haven’t Seen

September 5, 2014 by  
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Today, friends and family of Steven Sotloff will gather at a memorial to celebrate the life of the fallen journalist, who was murdered by ISIS militants earlier this week. Thousands are expected to attend the service in southern Florida.

In honor of his life and his commitment to telling stories others wouldn’t or couldn’t, HuffPost reached out to Sotloff’s family and friends to give you a glimpse into happier times, so that we can see him not as a victim of ISIS, but through the eyes of those who loved and admired him.

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1st Grade Class of Temple Beth Am, Miami, Fla. Steven Sotloff is seen in the second from right in the second row.

“Steven was a valued contributor to Time and other news organizations, and he gave his life so readers would have access to information from some of the most dangerous places in the world.” -Nancy Gibbs, Time Magazine Editor.

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Steven (Right) in a family photo from 1987.

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Steven (Far Left) with friends and family.

“A million people could have told him what he was doing was foolish, it seemed like it to us [as] outsiders looking in, but to him it was what he loved to do and you weren’t going to stop him.” Emerson Lotzia Jr., Sotloff’s former UCF roomate, told the Central Florida Future.

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Steven (Right).

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Steven (Right).

“I remember being struck by the quality of his turns of phrase and the structuring of his stories. There were a bunch of people around, some better than others. And Steven was one of the best.” -Tim Coghlan, foreign correspondent for The Times told Business Insider.

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Steven (Left).

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School Photo from Kimball Union Acaemy

“He was no war junkie. He did not want to be a modern-day Lawrence of Arabia. He merely wanted to give voice to those who had none.” -Sotloff Family Spokesperson


Hail, Hail, A Vagenius Has Left This Realm: Joan Rivers, Rest In Peace

September 4, 2014 by  
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She was always surprising us, always defying the status quo, always courageous, loud opinionated and damning. Her movie, The Girl Most Likely, starred Stockyard Channing and was the funniest thing I ever saw on TV. A hilarious story of a girl who is mistreated and gets real revenge, instead of being full of forgiveness — the usual female ‘media message’ fare.

Joan was constantly praised and then hounded by sexist Hollywood for having an independent point of view and a sense of unmatched female inner power — no one has ever seen such a fierce woman in any media. She paid the cost to be the boss. Most comics couldn’t hold up mentally to the kind of humiliation that Hollywood put Joan Rivers through. She turned it all back on their sexism though, like St. Joan the Conquerer. She kept getting braver and braver.

I must admit when she told fat jokes about Liz Taylor, I didn’t like that at all! I didn’t want anyone to point out Liz’s weight, because I weighed about 220 pounds then. At one point I couldn’t help but laugh at one of her fat jokes against my will. She could make you do a spit take! Laughing at what offends us can sometimes make everything feel lighter. After all, it’s okay to be fat, and to laugh about it. Fat people fall in love and have sex and love to laugh at fat jokes because it’s better to laugh than to cry.

It was better for us that Joan Rivers not only made fun of her own looks, but also the cultural pressure that drove her to worry about her looks in the first place — which isn’t just telling jokes, it’s actual layered feminist social critique, of which Joan was a master. Like myself, she launched a lot of writers’ careers, none of whom will ever show any gratitude for that fact, but oh, well. The jokes belong to the ages and to those who were lifted by them, not those who go on strike for higher percentages.

I loved her talk show and was honored to be on it after my unfortunate singing accident “19 Something.” After being condemned by patriarchy AND President George the Elder Bush, himself, I felt like I had lived through a witch burning. I went on her show and she said: “Don’t u think they are just mad at you bc you’re a woman? I’m telling you if a man had done what u did, he would be a huge comedic hero and big movie star!”

I often think of Borat’s ‘reductive’ (thanks, Madonna) signing of the National Anthem. How exact and on the money was Ms. Rivers?

As a Jew, I also appreciated Joan’s comment that Israel needs good neighbors in order for a Just Peace to actually occur. As a Jewish mother, I also applaud the great job Joan has done in producing a successful producer, Melissa. As a grandmother, I know the great joy she felt when arguing with her daughter (on her reality show) in front of her cherished grandson. What a great service she provided that grandson — to witness for himself that there is indeed a Higher Power than Mommy on this earth. Along with discount pancakes at IHop, this is indeed one of life’s rewards for aging!

I was such a fan! I always will be. I wanted her to beat death’s ass down, too, and prayed for that to happen, but she took her last curtain call instead, surprising me one last time.

Rest in peace, Goddess! Thank you on behalf of all comedians working today who know that you always fought the enemies of comedy. I loved it when you walked off of CNN — which you were right to do, as smug persons are never the correct choice to interview any comedian. You controlled the room always, in the most professional way, too. You leveled the playing ground for all comedians. You’ll be missed, but not forgotten. Copied but never matched. Never bested.

A Navy SEAL Surfaces as Transgender

September 3, 2014 by  
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Lady Valor screening at Time Warner Center in New York, with CNN moderator Miguel Marquez and panelists: psychotherapist Ken Page, Chief Officer (ret.) Kristen Beck, psychiatrist Jack Drescher and Prodigal Sons filmmaker Kimberly Reed

Seals are remarkable creatures. Bewhiskered, toothy and chubby, as avuncular as they may appear, they are powerful predators, mammalian but able to function with precision and speed both above and below the surface of the seas. Their strengths and skills for hunting are only truly made manifest where land-lubbing eyes cannot apprehend them.

Chief Officer (Ret.) Kristin Beck, 47, served for two decades in our Navy as one of the elite SEALs (short for Sea, Air and Land Teams), in 13 deployments, over half of them combat missions, and by all accounts she did so honorably and with intelligent gusto. She worked as part of highly sensitive counterterrorism efforts and received, among many honors, both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

She also did so as Christopher T. Beck. Last year, following her retirement from the Navy in 2011, she came out publicly as a transgender woman. She announced her transition to the world with a mighty splash (forgive the pun), arising from the publication of Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming Out Transgender, co-written with Anne Speckhard, author, psychologist, and Georgetown University adjunct associate professor of psychiatry. Although the collaboration with Dr. Speckhard seems to have soured (Beck makes a careful disavowal of the work on her professional webpage,, she has found new bedfellows at CNN, which will air a powerful documentary about her life and transition on Thursday, Sept. 4 at 9 p.m. EDT.

What is now Lady Valor: The Kristen Beck Story was initially told by CNN on Anderson Cooper 360 and then commissioned by CNN Films and directed by Sandrine Orabona and Mark Herzog (who also executive produced CNN’s Emmy-nominated, 10-part documentary series The Sixties) and is being screened to invited audiences at several locations across the country prior to its premiere as the opener of their second season of feature-length documentary subjects. I watched it last week sitting next to Ms. Beck on enveloping, burgundy Barcaloungers at the back of a screening room at the Time Warner offices on Columbus Circle as part of an event co-sponsored with Psychology Today magazine, which organized a Q-and-A panel following the film.

Ms. Beck is golden-skinned, athletic and attractively relaxed, with a disarming and polite intensity, a self-effacing military drawl and a sort-of-Beavis-and-Butthead, sort-of-naughty “heh-heh-heh” laugh. She looks like the sort of woman one might admire as she smashes a tennis ball without mercy over her opponent’s side of the net at the U.S. Open and then crowed in victory with infectious delight. She was wearing a smart version of a classic Manhattan little black dress with several of her military medals pinned at her left clavicle.

We were able to talk for a little while before the screening started, and Ms. Beck spoke with passion about what she referred to as her “mission” for the film: to encourage the military toward incremental analysis and eventual acceptance of an armed forces with openly serving transgender personnel. Conveniently enough, this week the Palm Center, a think tank on sexual minorities in the military that’s housed at San Francisco State University’s Department of Political Science, announced publication of a feasibility report on this subject with a press release trumpeting the opinion of “[t]hree retired US military General Officers, including the former chief medical officer of the US Army” that integration could proceed in a “straightforward manner that is consistent with military readiness and core values.”

Although CNN is a news organization taking the documentary as part of a coordinated effort to impact national military rules and regulations, the narrative presented in Lady Valor will likely be seen by both its staunchest supporters and its most rabid opponents as an enormously adept piece of agitprop in the “hero’s journey,” back-from-the-Trojan-Wars mold. The non-advocating audience will likely be moved by the portrayal of Ms. Beck’s challenges and perseverance as she seeks to distance herself from the brutal internal and external policy of containment she practiced as part of the “war on terror” and her attempts to suppress her own gender identity.

The most affecting scenes are ones that show Ms. Beck and her family and closest friends interacting (skillfully shooting skeet with her pained older brother and her querulous yet proud father, delivering her “special spaghetti” to the dinner table, hanging out with other retired military colleagues and friends over beers), especially as they attempt to grapple with the meaning of this change in someone they’ve known seemingly so intimately for so long, who is now presenting herself to them in a different gender.

Kristen Beck (credit: Jesse McClung, Herzog & Co. for CNN)

The most chilling scenes are of two kinds.

First, those scenes (largely personal footage that Ms. Beck provided to the filmmakers) from her time in active duty where one bears witness to a sensitive young man’s pilgrim’s progress into the calloused priesthood of state-directed killing, and those where she handles memento mori of various campaigns, like an Iraqi soldier’s helmet pressed into duty as a flowerpot, or a red-and-white keffiyeh headscarf that the original wearer “didn’t need anymore.”

The second set of scenes depicts an isolated, remorseful and psychologically scarred Ms. Beck on the road in a small RV between speaking gigs with her dog Bo, lamenting her estrangement from her two adolescent sons from a previous marriage and hoping for a future with a more integrated sense of self and more domestic commitment and happiness, one that her advocacy for transgender people in the military seems to stand for as expiation.

All these scenes foster a strongly visceral sense of sympathy for Ms. Beck’s struggles and wounds, and well as for her profound strength, discipline and humanity, which she shares with thousands upon thousands of military and non-military gender-nonconforming individuals, as well as thousands upon thousands of trans and non-trans veterans traumatized by their service to their country.

In the Q-and-A following the screening, Ms. Beck stated that “we need a fundamental change in compassion in this country.” And so we do. As long as oppressive violence to body, mind, spirit and community is called into service to protect dominating and cherished cultural values, we will all share the responsibility for and risks of that violence as it acts upon ourselves, our loved ones and our world.

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